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As a travel photographer, either on assignment or shooting a personal project, capturing great quality images that represent the spirit of a place and its people is key.
Looking to achieve that was a priority for me, so I always traveled with a bag full of gear, including at least two DSLR bodies, three or four lenses, flash, tripod, batteries, etc. It was a heavy load, and it slowed me down. I am a Nikon shooter, so my first approach to unload weight was to carry an all-purpose lens. I got the Nikon 28-300mm, and along with this, I’d carry the 14-24mm for wide-angle shots. Now I needed a backup camera or second body. I debated whether to keep carrying another Nikon body or to try something more compact. Finally I decided to get myself a mirrorless camera; enter the Fuji X system. My first mirrorless camera was the Fuji X-E1 with the kit lens, the wonderful Fuji 28-55mm. That camera was a turning point for me, and after my first trip I was sold on the system. Yes, I still shoot Nikon, but I just don’t travel with those big guns anymore.
The mirrorless technology is now really advanced – gone are the days when the image quality was not up to par with DSLRs and the availability of lenses was scarce. There are similar options from different manufacturers: Sony, Olympus, and Panasonic all have systems that eliminated the reflex portion and bulkiness of the typical DSLR. Please understand that I am mentioning Fuji because that’s the camera I use, but this is not an article to discuss a specific camera or brand. What you should consider is that for the most of us, the image quality of these cameras nowadays is amazing.
I’d say I’ve switched, at least for travel. Fuji is now my go-to system for everything on the move, including photo walks. If you are planning to invest in a camera system, you should at least give mirrorless consideration, and here is why:
When using a mirrorless system, traveling light doesn’t mean that you’ll be out of options in the field. In just a small camera bag, you can fit a lot. This Domke F-3X Super Compact bag contains two bodies, five lenses, a flash, four extra batteries, radio triggers, a GPS for geotagging and SD cards. What I have here in terms of camera are the Fuji X-T1, Fuji X-E2, Fuji18-55mm zoom, Fuji 55-200 zoom, the 23mm and 35mm primes and an 8mm fish-eye from Rokinon. Believe me, I can carry this all day long without putting strain on my back, which brings me to the second point.
Wandering light means you can wander more. A small and light kit won’t wear you out and you can pretty much shoot all day long. With these cameras you can always have one on you, even if you are not carrying a camera bag. There are plenty of options where you can take them on your belt and even inside the pocket of a jacket. Having a camera with you all the time brings more opportunities to capture the people and places where you are traveling. The photo below was taken my first day in New Orleans; after a long flight I just went out for a walk with the Fuji X-E2, the 23mm prime and a flash in my pockets, and when the opportunity presented itself I was able to shoot it.
There is nothing more annoying than people being scared of you. Trying to stick a big lens or camera in front of people in public spaces, or even worse, in remote locations where you don’t speak the local language, is a formula for disaster. There is also a difference if they see you as a pro photographer or just another tourist. When you carry a small camera, you’ll most likely go unnoticed or they won’t feel as intimidated as they would when they think you are pro shooting for a magazine. I personally love to shoot markets: these places, away from big cities, are one the best ways to explore local cultures. I’ve noticed a big difference since I started to shoot with the Fujis on my trips. I can blend in more, I can aim the camera, smile, and get a photo with no problems, whereas before many times I’d have people turning their faces down or away from me. Just consider this fact alone and the difference it can make in your photography.
Another great feature besides what is mentioned above is how easy it is to work with an electronic viewfinder. Imagine being able to see exactly what are you getting in your viewfinder before making the shot. You can quickly adjust camera settings and see the changes on the fly. Seeing where your whites are clipping or how the shooting mode will affect the result of the image without having to move your eyes out of the viewfinder is phenomenal. I could go on an on about the benefits, but I am not a technical person.
If you like to travel and go places, in my opinion this is the way to go. The future is even brighter, as manufacturers continue to develop their lineups. Mirrorless is versatile and delivers excellent results. Touring light will make your travel photography better and you’ll be able to enjoy your trip more.
Any other mirrorless fans here? Show us your photos and tell us about it.